There’s more than sun and surf to enjoy at Sydney’s famous beach
Bondi Beach is arguably Australia’s most iconic beach destination (although Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate may disagree). Whether Gold Coasters like it or not, it’s the one most often featured in overseas travel publications and TV shows and a “must see” for visitors to Sydney.
Memories of the “old Bondi Beach” linger. For kids growing up in the suburbs of Sydney years ago, it was a day trip by train, bus or even the bone-rattling Bondi tram, now deceased. Campbell Parade along the ocean front harboured a motley collection of fish ‘n chip shops where Pluto Pups and Chiko Rolls reigned supreme next to T shirt and thong vendors, milk shake parlours and dodgy dens of questionable magazines.
In short, Bondi was a place where parents were loath to let teenagers hang out, especially at night. My uncle, a retired police officer said there were areas including some hotels where even the cops had qualms about going.
How things have changed. A recent visit confirmed friends’ reports that Bondi Beach is now one of the trendiest precincts in the city, with some actually using the word “hip”. Well, that may still be a bit of a stretch but there has certainly been a seachange along the seafront and especially in the streets behind.
We now find the smartest and quirkiest coffee shops rivalling those in Surry Hills; small boutiques with eclectic fashions; unusual homewares and fabrics; a new raft of multicultural restaurants; galleries showcasing all kinds of art; and a Sunday market with a huge range of crafts and artisan items. And smashed avocado everywhere.
At the forefront of change is the newly refurbished Hotel Ravesis in a prime corner address overlooking the beach. Here, we found the ideal spot to people-watch from the balcony and enjoy a pizza or “modern Australian” cuisine in an informal setting befitting a beachy location. There are only 12 rooms and suites, nicely furnished and updated with comfy beds and all mod cons. An added feature is BLYS for an exceptional in-room massage treatment.
A short distance away in a side street is Drake Eatery, one of the finest of the “new wave” of casual restaurants in Sydney. With inside/outside dining, this small space is absolutely on trend with culinary creations by Chef Ian Oakes, and a service team that makes the whole experience a highlight you’ll want to post on FB to make your friends drool.
Then, there’s Trio Café or the popular Bill’s for breakfast; Da Orazzio for pizza and porchetta; and the Orchard Street Elixir Bar if you feel a cocktail or two coming on.
So many others, we would run out of space.
Forget the eating and drinking: we found places like Aquabumps, Eugene Tan’s gallery with amazing beach/ocean photography; Lucy Folk, a fun jewellery and fashion store; Bondi Wash for natural plant-based, non-toxic Australian products; and activities like Yoga By The Sea. The list of interesting new places keeps expanding month by month.
To top it all off, there’s the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk which is without doubt one of the most spectacular in Australia; perhaps followed by a recovery lunch at Bondi Icebergs restaurant with breathtaking views over the Pacific Ocean.
Yes, there’s a lot to recommend a stay at Bondi Beach, just 30 minutes from the CBD but a million miles away in attitude and relaxation, and from its more dubious past.
Picture one: Ravesis Hotel
Picture two: Food at Drake Eatery